Review: Protecting Fate by Katee Robert

Protecting Fate (Serve, #6)Protecting Fate by Katee Robert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

I’m a fan of Katee Robert’s romances but hadn’t read this particular series before reading the PROTECTING FATE novella. The good news is that it works well as a standalone without leaving the reader clueless or dumping unnecessary background information. It’s quickly obvious how the hero and heroine know of each other without having had the opportunity to spark any relationship before this moment.

Sara Reaver is still feeling the pain of her parents’ divorce and is trying not to resent her siblings for succumbing to marriage when they’ve all seen how bad it can be. Now that her own reckless actions have forced her into hiding with her brother’s best friend Zebadiah “Z” Loreto as protection, her deliberate avoidance of any emotional entanglements will be tested to the limit.

Z trusted a woman he loved, and nearly lost everything as a result. Sara needs him to be safe, but when he realizes there’s something more between them, it will take more than just their sexual connection to lead them to the happy ending neither thought could ever happen.

Although I would expect a reader familiar with the series to enjoy this story more than I did, there was plenty of romance to get me involved with the characters and root for them to succeed. The couples from the previous books work well as secondary characters here, and the initial danger to the heroine is resolved realistically, if somewhat preemptively. I was also gratified that the heroine didn’t just swoon into agreeing to marriage after her vehement objections to it for so many years. PROTECTING FATE is an intense and entertaining short read that I enjoyed enough to want to read all the previous books in the Serve series.

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Review: Red Handed: A Benediction Novel by Shelly Bell

Red Handed: A Benediction NovelRed Handed: A Benediction Novel by Shelly Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Anyone who follows my reviews at all knows that I’m not a big fan of serials, but one of the best romances I read last year was Shelly Bell’s four part romantic suspense serial, WHITE COLLARED. So naturally I was excited about reading her full length follow-up novel, RED HANDED. The previous story introduced us to the super exclusive BDSM club Benediction, and now in RED HANDED, we get to see that club’s mysterious owner Cole DeMarco find his own HEA with a woman we meet at the worst time in her relatively short but turbulent life.

Danielle Walker was still in shock after her father had gone to prison and died there soon after, apparently by his own hand. But now that Danielle’s seen her own stepmother kidnapped by the same people who’d helped send her father to jail, she has only a few short days to infiltrate the BDSM club of the only man she’d desired but could never have, Cole DeMarco. The kidnappers want whatever Cole’s hiding in his private office safe, and the kidnappers want her to get there by offering herself up to Cole as a sexual submissive trainee. So off Danielle goes into certain danger, never suspecting that what she’ll find along the way is her one true love.

Cole had known Danielle as the lovely but off-limits daughter of a man who’d gotten over his head with a dangerous crowd. Now that she’s old enough to be naked and under Cole’s control, he’s the one who’s over his head in what is definitely overwhelming sexual attraction but could also be the love he’s tried to avoid his whole life. With the impending danger to them both, there’s no time to take things slowly, and when everything Danielle believes in gets turned on its head, it’s Cole and Danielle’s love that will ultimately see both them and the reader through.

I love this author and this new series, but I’ll admit I was seriously put off by the initial premise of RED HANDED. Romantic suspense is always a bit tricky for me, as there’s only so much violence I can handle as a reader, so the opening scenes involving Danielle’s stepmother and the kidnappers’ threats were almost too intense. The idea that Danielle was being forced to participate in a 24/7 BDSM relationship under duress really didn’t sit well with me, but I continued on, trusting that the author would get me to the place where everything made sense. When that moment arrived, my relief was palpable, and my enjoyment of the story unconditional. Cole and Danielle are more than equally matched in both body and spirit, and as the story progresses, we see how their romance was inevitable in spite of the evil forces that had brought them together. The twists and turns are never too over the top, and the final HEA is well earned. If you love romantic suspense with a BDSM flavor, Shelly Bell’s Benediction series, including RED HANDED, is a must read.

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Review: Unraveled by Lorelei James

Unraveled (Mastered, #3)Unraveled by Lorelei James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

One of the best things that can happen in an ongoing series is when the author can redeem a mostly unlikeable character from an earlier book as the winning love interest in a following book. In UNRAVELED, Lorelei James has taken Ronin Black’s sister Shiori Hirano, a woman I initially disliked and only begrudgingly came around to liking, and made her the best heroine yet in the MASTERED series.

Now that Ronin is off on a trip to Japan to continue his martial arts training and spend time alone with his new wife Amery, his Black Arts dojo is temporarily in the hands of his sister Shiori and his right hand man Knox Lofgren. On the surface, this combination seems like a disaster in the making, since all Shiori and Knox ever seem to do is fight for domination. Yet there’s a deeper attraction under all the sparring, and when Shiori discovers Knox’s true nature, it’s all she can do to keep from immediately claiming him for good. Knox wants to be the man that Shiori believes he is, but it will take more than irresistible sexual desire to help them get past all the obstacles between them and happiness, not the least of which will be Ronin’s reaction to all that’s happened in his prolonged absence.

The ongoing transformation of Ronin’s sister Shiori from interfering and unapproachable to supportive and emotionally vulnerable without losing her innate strength has been a big draw for me in the MASTERED series and it’s a joy to see it come to fruition in UNRAVELED. As strong as she has needed to be from the start, it’s only when Shiori lets down her guard with Knox that we see the full person behind the facade. And when Knox trusts her with his newly discovered submission, the results are exhilarating. We see so much more of both characters and what’s shaped them into the people we think we know today that when they come together, it’s seems impossible that they could have ever resisted each other before. Even when the dreaded black moment of big misunderstanding arrives like clockwork, we see that neither of them is really ready to give up for good, and it makes their final HEA all the sweeter.

UNRAVELED is a solid entry in a series that keeps getting better and better for me, and I can’t wait to see how Lorelei James is going to keep it going next.

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Review: Vanilla by Megan Hart

VanillaVanilla by Megan Hart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

When I pick up a Megan Hart erotic romance, I know I’m going to get my heart broken, and all that’s left to discover is how, and whether or not she’ll put it back together again by the end of the book. What I got with VANILLA was heaping helpings of everything I love about her books, with a heroine not quite like any other she’s written and a hero who more than lived up to that definition by how he overcame his own fears and misguided notions to be the man most worthy of the heroine’s love.

Elise knows who she is and what she needs in the bedroom, and she’s not going to give that up for any man, not even one who might be her best shot at true love. After all, the last time she let love overrule her best judgment is still an open wound on her heart, and the last thing she needs is another one.

Niall wasn’t expecting to fall for his friend’s older sister, let alone have her push him into a sexual role he’d never ever thought about, let alone considered as something he could enjoy. But Elise is different and special and that one woman who just might be able to show him another way of making love, and in the process, find the self he didn’t know he’d had.

Any preconceived notions of how a Megan Hart book will go and what you’ll get by the end should always be thrown out, as anyone familiar with her books should already know. When we first meet Elise, I made assumptions about her based on the way she still couldn’t let go of the man who had hurt her even though he’d let go long before. Yet as her on again, off again romance with Niall progresses, I could see that the strength she shows in the face of his initial derision and resistance was a direct result from her previous emotional damage, and how it was Niall who needed to decide if what she offered was what he could take without losing what he’d always thought was his sexual identity. I was so proud of them both for working through the conflicts that threatened to separate them even though they loved each other so much, and how their happy ending was about more than just love and acceptance of the other person, but also of themselves. VANILLA was a perfect Megan Hart story for me and I’m so glad I was able to read it.

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Review: Montana Actually by Fiona Lowe

Montana Actually (Medicine River, #1)Montana Actually by Fiona Lowe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Fiona Lowe’s MONTANA ACTUALLY is the first book in her new Medicine River romance series, and while there were some elements of this book that I quite enjoyed, there were others that made it a difficult read for me overall.

The primary romantic couple in MONTANA ACTUALLY have both just arrived in the tiny Montana town of Bear Paw despite their best intentions. Dr. Josh Stanton is in town to work off his sizable student loan debt after having to fund his own medical school education when he refused to be the type of doctor his wealthy father had always expected. Katrina McCade, an experienced ER nurse, had grown up in Bear Paw but left for the big city to chase her dreams of success and love. Now after a devastating romantic betrayal, she’s back to regroup and decide what to do with the rest of her life. When Josh becomes Katrina’s unwilling tenant, the immediate sparks between them inevitably lead to an affair that they both agree shouldn’t require any ongoing commitment. But when tragedy strikes Katrina’s family, she and Josh will need more than sexual desire to heal the wounds they both carry in their hearts as they learn to trust and love each other in a tiny Montana town that needs them both.

While Josh and Katrina were an interesting couple to watch as they fell in love, I actually enjoyed the secondary romance between Beau and Shannon much more, perhaps because they were both so hesitant to believe they were worthy of the other’s attention, and so were more careful and more easily hurt by their own mistaken assumptions of the other. The layout of the town and its citizens was set up fairly well to introduce the series, although I’m still confused as to how an ER can exist independently of the only medical clinic in town when it’s constantly asserted that there aren’t enough trained people to fully staff both.

Ultimately there were two elements of MONTANA ACTUALLY that made it less enjoyable than I had anticipated. One was the decision to have a secondary character intrinsic to the lives of the core family for this new series fall ill with what initially seemed to be nothing big but eventually became terminal. Others may disagree, but for me it came across as an emotional shortcut required to bring both the primary and secondary romantic couples together more quickly than they might have under less traumatic circumstances.

The other element I found frustrating in this book involves one of my major pet peeves in any romance where sex is presented: inconsistent condom use. The first time Josh and Katrina decide to have sex, there is much discussion, both humorous and serious, about safer sex and making sure that they use a condom. This was a great scene and I was so happy it was included. And then there was never even a brief mention of condoms ever again! It’s always annoying and distracting for me when romance couples do and then don’t use condoms, but when one is a doctor and the other is a nurse? Add to that the periodic assertions by each about how much they want children in the future, and I was nearly convinced that there would be a surprise pregnancy by the end of the book. (Spoiler alert: There isn’t.)

Between the emotional manipulation and the condoms gone missing which took me out of the story, I was just not as happy with MONTANA ACTUALLY as I wanted to be. I do think there’s a good base here from which a successful series can continue, and I’m not sorry I read it. But I’m hoping that future books in the Medicine River series are more like Fiona Lowe’s BOOMERANG BRIDE, a book I adored, than this one.

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Review: Never Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

Never Let You DownNever Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at Night Owl Reviews.

Review Excerpt:

Much like the unconventional relationships highlighted in each of the previous Connagher books, NEVER LET YOU DOWN also features an unconventional way of telling the multi-layered story of Virginia and Jeb’s romance. We have a view of the present day as Jeb returns to woo the woman he’d never stopped loving. We also view the past, as all the questions about how he is inextricably linked to Virginia and Ty are eventually answered in full. And then, as the past and present wind their way around each other toward the anticipated HEA, a third voice enters the story in the form of a book within the book — a slightly over the top erotic western romance with a more than passing resemblance to the love story being told in the rest of the book. This manner of storytelling is risky with the danger of confusing the reader, but I was able to easily keep the three portions separate while appreciating how they all fit together as closely as Virginia, Ty, and Jeb did by the end of the book. It’s a beautiful love story in all its combinations, and a wonderful addition to one of my favorite erotic romance series.

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Review: Nothing Between Us by Roni Loren

Nothing Between Us (Loving on the Edge, #6)Nothing Between Us by Roni Loren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

I’ve been a big fan of Roni Loren’s Loving On The Edge series since CRASH INTO YOU, but as the books moved farther afield from the core characters at The Ranch, I was concerned that the distance might have a negative effect on the series. I’m relieved to confirm that this latest book, NOTHING BETWEEN US, proved to me that I needn’t worry, and that the same details which made all the previous books great reads are still fully present here in book 6.

The last time we saw Colby Wilkes was in NEED YOU TONIGHT, when he was the third in a special one night threesome with Kade and Tessa as they found their way back to each other after years apart. But we never really knew much about him other than he performed as a local bar singer and as a house Dom at The Ranch, the BDSM resort which serves as the focal point for this erotic romance series. After a traumatic experience as a high school teacher when he was blamed for a troubled student’s disappearance, Colby vowed to be more prepared in the future and is now a fully trained therapist at a different school miles away. When he discovers his new neighbor lady is a voyeur enjoying his sexual activities through her bedroom window, Colby is intrigued but willing to wait until she makes the first move. But when Colby’s past comes crashing back into his life, he’ll need all his training as both a Dominant and therapist to handle what comes next as the frightened woman next door becomes an essential part of the relationship he’d never dreamed he’d have.

Georgia Delaune used to have it all – a great career as a mystery writer, loving family and friends, and a man who gave her all the attention any woman would want. But it was the man who was the snake in her garden, causing her great sorrow as he worked to isolate her from everyone else by any and all means necessary. After the tragic death of her beloved sister, Georgia has fled from Chicago to this quiet Texas town in the hopes of laying low until her ex-boyfriend goes on trial for murder. The terror she feels any time she hears a strange noise or attempts to leave her house is real, yet she can’t resist watching her sexy neighbor Colby Wilkes with binoculars through her bedroom window at night. As events draw her out of her house and towards his, Georgia will find the strength to face her future with the support of not just one, but two amazing men to help bring the happiness she never thought she’d have again.

What I loved the most about NOTHING BETWEEN US was what has made Roni Loren’s Loving On The Edge series a must-read for me. It has a deliciously Dominant hero who knows what he wants but would never abuse a woman to get it, a heroine who works through her past issues while embracing this new relationship opportunity for as long as it lasts, and in this particular instance, an additional hero who realizes his own worth even as the other two discover he is the missing third they need to complete their happiness. The way the three became one was steady and convincing, with several steps back and forward as each learned to trust the other. And the individual dangers hanging over both Georgia and Colby were resolved in due time without taking focus away from the romance between all three main characters on the way to a lovely happy ending. It’s another worthy addition to Roni Loren’s series and gives me confidence that the next books in turn will be just as good.

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New Release Blog Tour: Razed by Shiloh Walker

Razed

Tattoo artist Keelie Jessup can handle that someone else has claimed the man of her dreams. She’s just not pleased with her remaining options…

Keelie doesn’t believe in the “perfect man.” But the men who are worth the trouble are usually taken—like her business partner Zach Barnes. After a string of bad luck and the lost chance with Zach, Keelie decides that maybe flying solo—and living with suppressed desires—is the key to happiness.

As a photographer, Zane Barnes has an eye for the human form, and his eyes can’t get enough of Keelie’s curves. Unfortunately, Keelie is like most women—always fawning over his little brother, Zach. Zane is about ready to give up, but then a few stolen moments at his brother’s wedding have him thinking maybe there’s a chance there after all. Now he just has to prove that the perfect man does exist…for her.

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Shiloh Walker is an award-winning writer…yes, really! She’s also a mom, a wife, a reader and she pretends to be an amateur photographer. She published her first book in 2003. Her newest series, Secrets and Shadows, launched in April 2014. Look for the newest book Deeper than Need, to be followed by Sweeter than Sin and Darker than Desire.
She writes romantic suspense, contemporary and paranormal romance, and urban fantasy under the name J.C. Daniels.

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Review: Razed by Shiloh Walker

Razed (Barnes Brothers, #2)Razed by Shiloh Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for WRECKED, the first book in the Barnes Brothers series. You could read RAZED as a standalone, but you’d lose a lot of context that reading the first book provides.

RAZED continues the story of Zane Barnes and Keelie Jessup that began as a secondary plot in WRECKED, and fills in the backstory of why they were unable to take the next step toward each other before now. Zane has loved Keelie for years but much like Abby in WRECKED, Keelie is mostly unaware of this devotion, only recently discovering that her crush on his brother Zach was entirely misplaced. When Zane finally makes his move at Abby and Zach’s wedding, Keelie responds positively at first, yet it still takes a few more months after that before they start dating. But each must resolve painful issues from the past before they can have a happy future together.

Although I was pleased that Zane and Keelie finally got to have the romance in RAZED that was only teased about in WRECKED, I began to resent any time the story was focused on characters and events that didn’t include the two of them together. It was obvious over the course of the book that Keelie was running away from something terrible, and as that thing got closer to finding her again, I had to resist being distracted by wondering what it could be, especially as it began to take up a substantial amount of the story. By the time the secrets were all exposed and Keelie was facing them head-on, I was simultaneously rooting for her to prevail and wondering when we were going to get back to her and Zane. Then when the overall story finally all came together and I was completely on board with where the romance was fitting in as the couple said their ‘I love you’s, it was abruptly over. (I know I’m biased when it comes to epilogues, but if ever a book needed one, it’s RAZED.)

Even though RAZED might not have been the completely easy read that WRECKED was for me, it’s still a worthy follow up to that story and an essential read for anyone who loves the first book and wants to see what happens next with the Barnes brothers and everyone in their world. I’m looking forward to reading BUSTED and hope that it provides the closure for Keelie and Zane that I would have liked more of in RAZED.

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Review: Master of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

Master of Pleasure (School of Gallantry, #5)Master of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.

In MASTER OF PLEASURE, the fifth book in Delilah Marvelle’s entertaining School of Gallantry historical romance series, we meet yet another student in dire need of Madame de Maitenon’s special sort of tutoring in order to be worthy of the woman he loves.
Its hero was featured briefly in NIGHT OF PLEASURE and I enjoyed getting to know more about him and seeing him find happiness with the woman of his dreams.

Malcolm, Earl of Brayton, has lived his whole life suppressing the desires that would otherwise destroy him. Instead he’s devoted all his passion and energy to serving the man who’d rescued him from certain destruction years earlier. But when Malcolm stumbles upon an impoverished lady in distress who appears sympathetic to his needs, his resistance ultimately gives way to what he must do in order to win her love forever.

Leona Webster wasn’t the first woman betrayed by a faithless fiance and unloving aunt, but she was determined to provide a better life for her fatherless son than the one she’d had so far. If only she had the means to match her intent. When Malcolm saves her from those sent by creditors to take all her possessions, he’s not alone in experiencing sudden long-repressed feelings of attraction. But can she give him what he truly needs from her, or must she just settle for his temporary protection until he sails away for good?

There is a fair amount of story overlap between MASTER OF PLEASURE and the previous book in the series, but not so much that it would affect the enjoyment by a reader new to the School of Gallantry. I appreciated seeing how Malcolm’s need to protect women from what he deemed his innate defect was ultimately his saving grace once Madame de Maitenon convinced him she could teach him how to safely satisfy his desires. Leona is a perfect match for him, and they fit together well as she more than rises to the challenge of loving such a man as he. There is frank discussion of sexual masochism, and those sensitive to such a topic may take issue with MASTER OF PLEASURE. But I found that the author handled Malcolm’s needs and Leona’s expectations with straightforward sensitivity throughout, and I recommend MASTER OF PLEASURE to anyone looking for a lusty and loving historical romance.

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